ALTON, VA – Former GT4 Sprint Am series champion Jeff Courtney made a strong return to sports car competition last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway with the SRO America Tripleheader races in the Pirelli GT4 Sprint divisions.
After four-layoff due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the popular SRO sports car campaign took to the fast 3.27-mile, 17-turn permanent road circuit in southern Virginia with strong lineup ready to battle in three separate 50-minute races.
Courtney, the Milwaukee veteran with success in his popular Maserati for five years, debuted his new No. 99 KENDA/RecStuff.com Mercedes-AMG GT4 sports car in 2020. Jeff’s initial debut with the new machine took place at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in March. Two sixth place finishes showed teething issues out of the box with the Mercedes-AMG. But the car’s VIR performances produced three runner-up placings.
With new chassis setups for the VIR weekend, Courtney was expecting better results when the green flag dropped in Friday’s first GT4 Sprint event. And Jeff charged his way to the front of the field and challenged leader Michael Dinan to the checkered flag. But Courtney had to settle for second position, just 0.407 seconds behind Dinan.
The RecStuff Racing crew made some new adjustments for Saturday’s race on Friday evening and Courtney was set for a stronger performance Saturday. Unfortunately, a head-on street incident near Raleigh, N.C., sent Jeff to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.
“I was moving through a green light and a car turned right in front of me,” Courtney explained. “We collided at about 45 miles per hour. I spent most of the night in the ER with a sprained left leg and a slight concussion. I think I might have had four hours of sleep before heading back to VIR. I was sore but cleared to race.”
In Saturday’s GT4 Sprint feature, Courtney felt alright during the 50-minute race and was leading the Am class when he slid off the course. With a sore left leg, braking was not the easiest for Jeff in the race.
“I was surprised that I felt better the next day after the street incident,” he said. “I am a left-foot braker and I just slid into the grass briefly. The Mercedes was still good, and I fought back to get second after the miscue. I thought we had made good changes with the car. Probably should have won on Saturday and Sunday. But I’m pleased with the direction we are moving with the Mercedes. We are fast in the corners. We just need a little more straightline speed right now.”
In Sunday’s GT4 Sprint Am contest, Courtney and Dinan put on another tremendous wheel-to-wheel affair before the Aston Martin driver bettered the Jeff’s Mercedes-AMG by the tight margin of 0.171 seconds. Despite Courtney’s three second place finishes at VIR, he set the fastest GT4 Sprint Am race lap in each of the three events.
“We showed we had the speed in the turns at VIR,” said Courtney. “However, the VIR track is a high-speed circuit and we couldn’t get to the front in the straights. We’ll work in the next few weeks to improve on it before the next race.”
Highlights from the VIR GT4 Sprint races will be shown on CBS Sports Network on July 19 at 7 p.m. EDT with an encore showing at July 19 at 9:30 p.m. EDT.